Choosing The Best Wakeboard/Surf Boats for Saltwater

Choosing The Best Wakeboard/Surf Boats for Saltwater

When wakeboarding and wakesurfing in pure saltwater or in an ocean inlet of brackish water, the salty water can have lasting negative effects on your boat.

While most wake boats are designed for freshwater use, there are a range of Mastercraft’s, Malibu’s, Moomba’s, and Axis boats that are designed for saltwater use.

The best wake boats for saltwater typically have a closed cooling system, zinc anodes, fiberglass flooring, and stainless steel hardware. Flushing out the engine between uses with freshwater is paramount, and keeping the boat out of saltwater when not in use can increase the boat’s lifespan.

While most saltwater-designed boats can be used in freshwater without a problem, the same is not necessarily true the other way around. These are a few high-rated boats for saltwater use:

Mastercraft CSX– Deep V-shaped hull, high draft
– closed cooling system
– heavy ballast system creating an unrivaled steep wake
– fiberglass flooring
– protected keel
Malibu Sportster LX– Modified V-shaped hull
– solid wedge system for a sizable wake
Sea Ray 220 Select– V-shaped hull
– high draft for limited backsplash
– stainless steel hardware and details
– special speaker system for ocean climates
– fiberglass floor base with detachable carpeting
– produces a well-rounded wake.
Correct Craft with Coastal Edition package– V-drive engine creating a tall and curling wake
– closed cooling system
– sealed and waterproofed electrical components
– zinc anodes
– coated stainless steel engine.
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Negative effects of saltwater on your boat

Negative effects of saltwater on your boat

Corrosion and rust

Saltwater is a strong electrolyte and causes rust. Because boat engines are part metal, salt will corrode and damage a boat engine and its internal hardware wires if not flushed out and rinsed correctly. 

This is also true for any metal fixtures on the exterior and interior of the boat. Window railings, the propeller, and the steering wheel can also suffer from rust when sitting in a salty climate for too long.

V-drive and direct drive boats, which are designed for wakeboarding, wake surfing, and skiing, are designed to purposefully leak water into the propeller shaft to keep it from overheating.

This means a bit of saltwater will enter the hull of the boat while it is sitting idle.

Hull strength and paint

Freshwater boat hulls are made from fiberglass material which is vulnerable to saltwater. Saltwater will also fade and scratch the exterior of your boat more easily than freshwater can. 

V drives, direct drives, and ski boats are designed to leak a little to keep the shaft cool, so you will have salt water getting in the hull while its sitting – in contrast to inboard/outboard boats.

Saltwater-specific boats are usually coated with a layer of antifouling paint which further protects the hull from corrosion.


If your boat stands in ocean water for months on end, you might develop barnacles and algae build-up on the underside of the hull. This requires actively keeping the hull of your boat scrubbed clean at all times.

What to look for in a saltwater wake boat

Closed cooling system

All boat engines have a cooling system that runs freshwater or a coolant through the engine to keep it from overheating. 

In closed cooling systems, the seawater doesn’t run through your engine, instead it goes through a heat exchanger equivalent to a radiator, while a coolant runs through the engine. This can really save on engine life in saltwater.

Be aware, though, that the “closed cooling system” in some saltwater series boats can be deceiving as they’re not completely closed.

Also, with a close system, while you avoid the salt eating the engine’s cooling components, it will still attack the exchanger.

In short, even ocean series boats shouldn’t sit idle in salt water for long periods of time and should be flushed out and rinsed after each use.

Zinc or aluminum anodes

While freshwater boats typically have magnesium anodes, you’ll want zinc or aluminum anodes for saltwater use.

Because there are electrical properties in saltwater that naturally erode metal, zinc and aluminum anodes function to protect the metal components of your boat by sacrificially absorbing them themselves. 

Stainless steel hardware & sealed wiring

Stainless steel has chromium oxide in its compound, making it rust resistant. Stainless steel is the most low-maintenance metal and has great resistance to oxidation and corrosion. 

Make sure that the internal wiring in your engine and electronic systems are protected with a rubber sealant. These wires are narrow and small and prone to rust and corrosion and are often the first things that need replacing in a wake boat that runs in saltwater.

Back hatch cover over engine parts

Your ocean wake boat should ideally have a sealed hatch to protect its vital engine parts from saltwater splashes and exposure.

Hard fiberglass or plastic flooring

As saltwater is bound to enter the inside of your boat (via splashing and passengers), carpeted floors are a recipe for mildew disaster and should be avoided whenever possible. 

Your best bet would be to find a boat which you can spray down in full without worrying about damaging anything with fresh water.

Saltwater wake boat recommendations

Mastercraft CSX for saltwater

Part of Mastercraft’s saltwater series, the CSX has a bunch of features that make it a great ocean-going wake boat.

It has a modified deep V-shaped hull that cuts through ocean chop with ease without affecting the quality of the wake. The high draft reduces the salty spray entering the boat when driving in chop.

The CSX has a closed cooling system that uses coolant to cool its engine, limiting the risk of rust and corrosion on the engine.

Weighing in at 4300 lbs with an optional 650 lb rear ballast tank, the CSX creates a steep and sizable wake with plenty of pop for wakeboarders and wakesurfers. The wake is as good as any Mastercraft X-series boat.

It has a fiberglass floor that is easy to rinse down, as well as a protected keel, which makes it possible to beach ashore.

It’s one of the only center console boats designed with an engineered wake, making it a great all-rounder for ocean wakeboarding and wake surfing, fishing, and scuba diving.

Malibu Sportster LX

As long as you keep your engine flushed out and boat rinsed and stationed in a dry dock, the Malibu Sportster LX is a great option for a marine-going wake boat.

The LX has a modified V-shaped hull which conveniently slices through sea chop. It’s a lot smaller than the Mastercraft, yet still puts out a solid wake for its size once you drop the wedge.

The Sportster LX wedge adds an equivalent of 1000 lbs of downward force towards the stern of the boat, increasing the size of the wake dramatically.

Sea Ray 220 Select

The Sea Ray 220 Select was designed for making waves in the ocean. It has a deep V-shaped hull, a super-high draft of 36 inches, and weighs a heavy 4350 lbs.

This spec combination makes it great for cruising in ocean water conditions without experiencing too much backsplash back into the boat.

It has stainless steel hardware and details (including switch toggles) that are made to withstand salty sea air and water corrosion. The “All Marine” speaker sound system is also corrosion resistant.

The Sea Ray has fiberglass flooring with detachable carpets that you should take out when using in saltwater.

With an added wake tower, the 220 produces a well-rounded wake. You might have to add some extra weight (passengers or tanks) to get a solid wake for a wake surfer.

Nautique Correct Craft with Coastal Edition package

Creating one of the best wakes on the market, this 25-foot V-drive is made for marine wakeboarding and surfing.

Nautique’s newer boats all come with sealed and waterproofed electrical components and fuse panels to reduce the risk of rust and corrosion developing in the engine.

The Coastal Edition package can be added to any Super Air Nautique with corrosion-resistant features including:

  • Stainless steel gas shocks
  • Sealed steering cables
  • Zinc anodes on the propeller shaft and rudder
  • Anodized aluminum structural components
  • A water management system that keeps the boat dry and limits saltwater exposure to vital mechanics
  • A coated stainless steel engine

A more budget Alternative to the Coastal Edition is the standard edition of the Correct Craft with added closed cooling system and aluminum or steel anodes. 

Tips for reducing the impact of saltwater on a boat

  • Keep the boat out of saltwater between uses. It’s generally worth investing around $5K in a lift of floating dock e.g. airdock.
  • Flush your engine out with fresh water, and rinse the engine compartment, interior, and exterior of the boat as soon as you take it off the water.  A through-hull flush can make rincing a lot easier( < $300).
  • Take your boat in for a heat exchanger flushing service after every 600 to 800 hours of use.
  • Use Salt-Away solution to flush out the boat, cover the dash and wash the whole tower. Spray the engine and speaker systems with WD40 rust removal products and lubricants, to stop any rust from developing in tight spaces.
  • If your boat has a carpet, wash it with a pressure hose at least once a month.
  • Add in a freshwater washdown tank so your passengers can rinse off any saltwater before climbing into the boat.
  • Add zinc or aluminum anodes to the transom or propeller shaft to absorb extra saltwater stress.
  • Make sure you pair your boat with an aluminum or galvanized steel trailer and rinse your trailer well between each use to avoid rust build-up.

Photo credits:
Featured image: “07-11-15-000003296.jpg” (CC BY 2.0) by Verde River

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